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Do you feel you attract narcissists and want it to stop?

You are not alone. Many people are magnets for narcissists and don’t know why, so let’s unpack this to learn more.

When Anita’s live-in boyfriend suddenly refused to retrieve his son from his ex-wife and then flew to Las Vegas on a whim with his co-workers for a boozy weekend, she immediately knew she was dealing with a narcissist.

Over coffee, she asked me, “Why are all the sick puppies attracted to me?”

It’s a question many women ask themselves after leaving a narcissistic relationship

However, when dealing with an experienced, successful predator who initially molds themselves to be your perfect partner, it is challenging to see their patterns if you came from a traumatic childhood that normalizes abusive behavior or rewards certain personality traits.

Unfortunately, all Cluster B personality types — narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths —  literally can sniff out any vulnerable person who cannot discern their toxic patterns. As a result, they choose partners who overlook their bad-boy antics, forgive their abuse, and normalize their bizarre conduct repeatedly.

So Who Attracts Narcissists?

  1. Adult Children of Unsafe Parents. Unsafe parents include all those who mistreated their children because of addiction, alcoholism, abuse, Cluster B personalities, or even sufferers from complex trauma. These parents neglected their children’s development, invalidated their accomplishments, ignored their needs, and trampled emotional, physical, or sexual boundaries. They destroyed their children’s self-esteem, employed constant verbal abuse, put them in danger, and saw them only as extensions of themselves. These parents laid the subconscious tracks for future narcissistic abuse, setting up their children to feel a “soul connection” with toxic partners because their abusive behavior feels “normal” or “like home.” And because it feels so “right,” these adult children are blind to the obvious red flags others can see. They will often return to the role of a people-pleaser to keep the relationship and avoid conflict, just as they did as a child with their parent.
  2. Empathetic Caretakers. These folks are crack to a narcissist who takes advantage of their empathy. Typically, extreme caretakers put others’ needs before their own and lack the necessary boundaries to protect themselves. They invest heavily in relationships and feel guilty if they say “no” to their friends and family, even for self-care. Caretakers are the ones who always remember your birthday or bring the extra cookies to the office or offer help in a time of crisis. They see everyone around them through a lens of compassion, working hard to stay emotionally present. Since narcissists want their partner(s) to revolve around their every need, they naturally search for the people who put them first no matter what, using them as their assistant, cheerleader, sex worker, therapist, or all of the above. Unfortunately, caretakers give narcissists second, third, and fourth chances, feeling guilty that they didn’t love or listen enough or care enough. Just remember, having empathy for yourself is more important than having empathy for toxic personalities.
  3. Optimists & Toxic Positivity. It is true that optimism has positive health benefits, but extreme optimists are vulnerable to narcissistic abuse. In fact, the optimism bias has been studied for years, showing the downside of optimism such as a person’s “relative inattention to detail, failure to seek new information, and selective inattention to unpromising data” leading to poorly informed decisions. These people can grossly misinterpret red flags and repeatedly make excuses for bad people by looking for only the good in their fellow human beings. It is tough for them to accept that nothing can change narcissism. But worse, if the optimist subscribes to a toxic positivity, denying the presence of negative emotions or harmful actions in the world, they cast a framework that dismisses a narcissist’s machinations or even evil. Instead, be a realistic optimist, one who protects themself and those they love.
  4. Rescuers. Most rescuers, since childhood, want to help people in every way possible. They want to fix their friends’ problems and solve issues at work. They may even bolster their self-esteem by aiding others. But if you’re rescuing a narcissist who engages your sympathy through pity, you are setting yourself up for a long, painful cycle. You will find yourself in a never-ending rescue project by accepting their sob story about their ex-boss, ex-spouse, ex-girlfriend, broken car, broken leg, or broken life. They always need something fixed in their life, feeling entitled to your time, money, and energy. So how can you tell it’s a narcissist? They rarely express gratitude and feel entitled to keep asking for more and more help.
  5. Spiritual People & Forgiveness —Most religious teachings believe that forgiveness is vital for moving forward. For many folks, forgiveness is a gift, and we try to do better when given the opportunity. But it doesn’t work with narcissistic people. It gives them endless second chances, enabling their bad behavior. Narcissists love forgivers because forgiveness is a permanent carte blanche for them to do whatever they want, whenever they want. However, Desmond Tutu said, “Forgiving is not forgetting; it’s actually remembering — remembering and not using your right to hit back. It’s a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don’t want to repeat what happened.”  If we keep forgiving narcissists who manipulate us and refuse accountability, we waste our forgiveness. We need to step off their merry-go-round of manipulation and leave.

How Do We Stop Attracting Narcissists?

  1. Be comfortable setting immediate and strong boundaries. This could include boundaries on your time and money as well as how you want to proceed emotionally, physically, or sexually with another person.
  2. Strengthen your self-confidence and know you’re worthy of good, honest people in your life.
  3. Do not be a people pleaser or cater immediately to others’ needs. Culturally, women are expected to take care of people and in some communities, they are shunned if they don’t. So if you’re a natural caretaker or bend backward to please people, step back for a moment and don’t. You’ll soon learn if these new people will take advantage of your kindness or be grateful for it.
  4. Practice identifying narcissistic red flags —  That could be controlling or demeaning behavior, love bombing, grandiose promises, insatiable need for adoration, superficial connection, entitled behavior, or lack of empathy for others. If any of these appear, run.
  5. Listen to your body. If you find that you’re having more than the typical jitters of meeting someone new, check in with yourself to see what caused it. You will be surprised at how much information our physical body can give us if we listen.
  6. And lastly, do the work on yourself that you need. Educate yourself on narcissism so there are no repeats. Strengthen your friendships and be kind to yourself. Make time for joy each and every day. You got this!

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Alexis Azria

Alexis Azria, a dedicated mom and passionate humanitarian, writing about the parenting issues and ethical dilemmas we face daily.

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